This year is a celebration of the 300 years since English landscaper Capability Brown's birth. He is often decried as a wrecker of gardens by some purists, as he was known for obliterating the elaborate knot gardens and parterres favoured in the period immediately before him and replacing them with cleverly constructed naturalistic landscapes of parkland, trees, lakes and vistas. He was also quite prolific, designing over 250 gardens in his lifetime. The fact that many of his designs survive completely intact is perhaps due to two things: large areas are left to do their own thing in the parkland style (no tedious pruning and fussy flower planting to maintain), and that his planting schemes relied on long lived trees for their Architectural structure - there is no loss of small plants gradually over a few decades to obliterate the entirety of the design.
But perhaps the best way of to take a snapshot of a moment in time in a garden is by recording it with a garden map. Anyone having a plan done for their garden today is familiar with receiving a full planting scheme on plan laid out appropriately scaled from their landscape designer. While these are purely utilitarian, they are a beginning record of a gardens planting, and the subsequent evolution thereafter. However, not all gardens were started this way, and many have no plan to refer back to.
Map by Catherine O'Neill
The original Garden owners travelled extensively around the world hunting down exotic plants, bringing seeds and cuttings back from Asia, Europe, and America, as well as swapping plant seed and cuttings with other keen Garden owners at that time across Australia. Of course, if you're DIYing your garden, you don't necessarily make a map of where you're planting things - rather you most likely walk around and just set things out where you'd like them to be. For this reason there has never been a completely accurate map of the garden, and certainly no proper inventory of the trees (there are in excess of 1000 of them). The question of where to stop in terms of detail was something we had lengthy discussions about as Catherine commenced the project.
The starting point was, fortunately, an accurately surveyed map (above) with the Victorian- era circuitous paths and drives laid out on it that my Father already had. From there, satellite maps that provided further detail of canopy spread were helpful, but much of the work Catherine has done has involved mapping each garden bed, laboriously numbering each tree and larger scale understory plant, and setting them all out on her larger garden plan. My Father has spent a lot of time over the past 10 years identifying each un-labelled tree (with some help from the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens, visiting Botanists and Garden History experts, and Catherine herself), and has in the process discovered plants that originate in Nepal, Mongolia, China, and very unusual Cypress not thought to be grown elsewhere in Australia. It's been quite a fascinating process.
Unfortunately, the map is not yet finished (likely early next year), so you can see it's really been quite a process. I'm not able to post the end result in this blog post... however I thought I'd post the video Catherine has on her website showing the process of the making of one of her beautiful watercolour maps.
Late last year, Country Style magazine wrote an article about this particular garden, Glenmore (image below), so you can see how she not only accurately captures the plant locations and types, but also the overall feel of the garden, something that is not so easily conveyed in a modern, purely functional style of plan.
Glenmore, via Country Style magazine
Three Copper Beech, planted to celebrate the birth of the three grand-children of the original garden owner
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